Tip Your Cap

Baseball lost a great one Tuesday. Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for an incredible 67 years, passed away at the age of 94. In his memory, I’m repeating a post from 2016, when Vin retired. So long, Mr. Scully, you were the best. Larry

 

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The end of an era is upon us, sports fans.

Vin Scully, legendary baseball announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is retiring this season, after an astonishing 67 years in broadcasting.

Sixty…seven…years. Let that sink in for awhile.

Nobody has ever done his job so well, for so long. Nobody even close.

It makes me envious of Dodger fans. He’s more than just their announcer. He’s more than just their buddy, inviting them to sit back and enjoy a ball game with him.

He’s their dad, the one with all the memories of former Dodger heroes like Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, on and on and on.

Wow!

This man is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Dodgers; indeed, of baseball.

He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, of course, as a recipient of the annual Ford C. Frick award, presented to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.”

And boy, has this guy contributed.

 

Back in ancient times, before television, radio was the only way to broadcast a ballgame. The announcer, therefore, was an artist; it was up to him to paint a complete picture for the listener, to describe the brilliant blue sky, the gentle breeze blowing in from left field, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the jubilant roar of the crowd…every sight, sound and smell of the game brought vividly to life, transporting the fan listening at home right to the best seat in the ballpark.

Vin Scully has skillfully painted these pictures day after day, game after game, for decades.

Not only does that take a great deal of talent, which he certainly has, and a singularly mellifluous voice, which he also has. It takes a true love and passion for the game, and a warm, inviting, friendly manner that makes people want to tune in and listen to him. Vin Scully checks both those boxes, as well.

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams once said, “If there was a guy born to play baseball, it was Willie Mays.” I say, if there was a guy born to announce baseball, it’s Vin Scully.

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My two favorite ball games, called by Vin Scully:

1986 WORLD SERIES, GAME 6: As the New York Mets mounted a crazy ninth-inning, two-out comeback to defeat the utterly gobsmacked Boston Red Sox at New York’s Shea Stadium, Vin asked rhetorically, ” Can you believe this ballgame at Shea?”

As the infamous game-ending ground ball rolled improbably through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets, Vin described it like this, the shock and disbelief at what was unfolding, clearly heard: “Little roller, up along first…BEHIND THE BAG!! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER!! HERE COMES KNIGHT, AND THE METS WIN IT!!!”

Minutes later, after letting the television audience take in the raucous celebration in the stadium, except for the stunned, silent Red Sox dugout, he declared, “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words!”

(Which is another skill of his: letting the images on television tell the story. As valuable as his words are, he knows when they aren’t needed.)

 

1988 WORLD SERIES, GAME 1: Dodgers vs. Oakland A’s, Dodger Stadium. Bottom of the ninth inning. Dodgers trail by one run with two outs and one man on base. Kirk Gibson, pinch-hitting despite a badly hurt right leg, is at bat. Three-ball, two-strike count. Here comes the pitch. Mr. Scully, take it away:

“High fly ball, into right field, she is GONE!!!”

In that call, you can hear the hopeful anticipation of what could happen, followed by the amazement and joy at what just did.

And then, amid all the resultant pandemonium, he added, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

Side note: At that moment, another legendary announcer, Jack Buck, delighted the radio audience with his own immortal line: “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!!”

 

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Vin Scully will announce his last Dodgers home game this Sunday, September 25, at 4:00 PM, Eastern Time. It will be broadcast live on MLB Network, as well as the Dodgers’ and Colorado Rockies’ local networks. Do yourself a favor; take a break from football this Sunday.

And enjoy a baseball game with a living legend.

Finally a Yankees Fan

I never could stand the New York Yankees baseball team.

Especially during the tenure of owner George Steinbrenner. I thought he was an arrogant, rich jerk who fielded a whole team of arrogant, rich jerks. I thought they felt entitled to a World Series Championship every season, like all the other teams shouldn’t even bother playing.

And the really annoying part was, they won a lot.

As a long-suffering Texas Rangers fan, this was the most annoying in the late 1990’s, when we would regularly lose to the Yanks in the playoffs.

But, that’s all history. Today, I come, not to bury the Yankees, but to praise them. (Thanks, Bill.)

And the Tampa Bay Rays, as well.

From Associated Press, May 27:

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays used their social media accounts during Thursday night’s game between the teams to spread information about how gun violence affects American life.

The move was made in response to recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo. Several notable sports figures — including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr — have used their platform over the past few days to plead for action to combat gun violence.

MLB’s social media accounts are usually used during games to show video highlights, relay baseball statistics or exchange witty jokes with other accounts about the action on the field. On Thursday, that was replaced by posts like “ Firearms were the leading cause of death for American children and teens in 2020.”

Both accounts then posted a link to the source of their information.

In lieu of gave (sic) coverage and in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rays, we will be using our channels to offer facts about the impacts of gun violence.” the Yankees said in a statement. “The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”

The Rays also released a statement, saying that the recent shootings “cannot become normal.

We all deserve to be safe — in schools, grocery stores, places of worship, our neighborhoods, houses and America. The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core. The Tampa Bay Rays are mourning these heartbreaking tragedies that took the lives of innocent children and adults.“

This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes.”

The Uvalde school shooting was particularly personal for Rays reliever Brooks Raley, who is from Uvalde and still has family who live in the town. He attended the school where the shooting occured.

The story mentions Steve Kerr. If, by now, you haven’t seen his postgame response to the tragedy in Uvalde, it’s worth watching. He spoke for many of us.

Unfortunately, not all of us, but that’s for another post.

But what these two teams did Thursday night was absolutely remarkable. They put the uncomfortable – and, in the case of the United States Congress, untouchable – issue of gun violence right in our face, imploring us to acknowledge and deal with it. They stood up, like men.

Now it’s on us to stand with them.

Thank you, Yankees. I’ll still root for you guys to lose, don’t get me wrong, but you definitely won last night.

So did you, Rays. Thanks to both teams for having your priorities straight.

Please visit their team Twitter accounts and read the information provided there. (And just ignore all the trolls on there trashing them already; you knew they would.)

And tell your Congressmen: We can handle the thoughts and prayers. It’s time for you to ACT.

Uncomfortable History Month: Hammer Time

I’m a day late reblogging this post, but it’s still essential reading for Black History Month. Even Black sports heroes are subject to unimaginable abuse. Larry

The Mind of Brosephus

Day five, and what better topic is there than the Hammer himself. On this date in 1934, the greatest player to ever wear an Atlanta Braves uniform was born in Mobile, Alabama. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron would leave Mobile and go on to become the homerun king of Major League Baseball.

I could go on all day about his career, but we all are pretty familiar with his stats. What makes his career even more impressive is when you realize that he accomplished all he did while under constant threat to both himself and his family. Just as revisionism portrays Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as someone who was supposedly beloved during his time on earth, Aaron wasn’t universally accepted and loved by America during his playing years.

I’ll give you just a few samples of the thousands upon thousands of hate letters he and the Braves organization received…

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Spring Hopes Eternal

 

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Getting close to Opening Day. It’s exciting!!

Opening Day of baseball season is one of the best times of the year. If you’re a baseball fan, that is. Nothing like going out to the ballpark to cheer on your team, yell at the umpires, partake of some concessions (peanuts and sodas for me), go wild when one of your guys hits a home run (or one of the opponents strikes out), and just enjoy yourself for a few hours watching this great game.

And Opening Day is great, because every team has the exact same win-loss record. Every team has the same chance of getting all the way to the World Series, and winning a championship.

Anything can happen. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won for the first time since 1908. A year later, the Houston Astros won for the first time in their team’s history.

Who will it be this year? The fans can’t wait to find out.

 

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Baseball has always been in my life. When I was a kid, we lived close to a minor league ballpark, and went there often during the summer to see a game. I’ll always remember my dad catching a foul ball one time, and handing it to me. I was probably about eight or nine years old. He was about as big a hero to me then as ever.

Then, in the early 1970’s (yes, I’m that old), Major League Baseball came to town, and I have followed the triumphs and travails of the Texas Rangers ever since.

(The 2011 season is still a sore subject. I tell you, we were this close, this close, to our first ever World Series championship, and we blew it. Some heartbreaks, you never get over.)

I had always watched the game, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I came to understand and appreciate the subtle nuances of it, after reading a book called The Baseball Fan’s Companion, by Nick Bakalar. It was that book that taught me the strategy behind pitching, hitting, baserunning, base stealing, signs and all the rest. Turns out, baseball is a much more complicated game than it appears to be.

And that’s what makes it great. It looks simple, but there’s a lot more going on than just scratching and spitting.

 

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One thing that will make this season more interesting is the implementation of some new rules intended to speed up the game. Now, when I first heard about this, I was kinda worried. Speed up the game?, I thought, That’s the beauty of baseball, that it goes at its own pace! What are you guys doing? I mean, there was even discussion about adding a pitch clock, so pitchers would only have so much time between each pitch.

I might have boycotted baseball if they’d gone through with that!

Fortunately, they didn’t, but some other changes will be implemented this season, on a trial basis, to try to make the game move along a little faster.

I guess it’s a good idea; we’ll see. Hardcore baseball fans are very resistant to change. It may take awhile to win ‘em over.

Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining way to spend some time. Even just listening to a game can be entertaining, just to hear the announcer call the game in a language all its own: “One on, one out, here in the top of the seventh. Hamels is trying to get Altuve to hit into a double play, so the Rangers can get out of this inning with no runs scored on them. Hamels sets, here comes the pitch…strike on the inside corner, and the count is now two and two! Hamels froze Altuve with a slider that time…”

There’s just something hypnotic about it. I think so, anyway.

It’s a terrific game. If you’ve never checked it out before, why not give it a try? If you want to get into it a little deeper, I recommend the book I mentioned earlier. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a stadium where a baseball team plays, even a minor league team, go attend a game or two.

And try to catch a foul ball for me.

 

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Go Rangers!!!